This week’s Charleston Post and Courier article detailing adoption fraud is bound to give pause to families who are considering adoption. This article describes “bottom dwellers” who prey on unsuspecting adoptive families with false claims of pregnancy, and who seek money, perhaps from multiple families at one time, with promises of an adoption plan for their fictional child.
These scams have been around throughout my legal career, but have become more pervasive. Today, many adoptive families are finding expectant parents directly through the Internet, without the guiding hand of adoption professionals. At times this works out well, and yet, as this article describes, without an experienced adoption professional, prospective adoptive families are vulnerable to these unscrupulous persons. Even adoption professionals can, at times, be taken in.
So what is the lesson found in such disturbing stories?
First, such stories are the exception. Be wise, but have some faith — there really are unselfish and child-focused women who are experiencing unplanned pregnancies who consider adoption. The pursuit of an adoption can bring adoptive parents face-to-face with con artists, yes. But far more often, in my experience, the pursuit of adoption will bring a family face-to-face with a courageous woman who is sacrificing greatly to give her child a life that she cannot offer.
Second, take a close look at the adoption program model that suits you best. Some adoption professionals assume the risk of these adoption scams. Other adoption programs allow the adoptive parents to bear the risk directly. At our law firm, we assume the financial risk of such scams.
In our adoption program model, we build rapport with an expectant parent throughout her pregnancy, and match her with prospective adoptive parents fairly late in the pregnancy, usually in the eighth month or so. This process allows us to screen situations to avoid these notorious adoption stories.
Keep in mind, there are also a fair number of expectant parents who begin the process adoption-minded, who end up parenting. These are not scams; they reflect a change of heart. Expectant parents should be allowed time to consider their options before committing to an adoption plan. And they should be able to do so with the support of qualified adoption counselors. Hurrying the adoption match, or injecting the prospective adoptive parents too soon in that process without the mediation services of an adoption professional, can cause equal heartache to the scams and abuses described by the Post and Courier.